You don't need to get caught in a mind loop like Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in Aviator to know that online golf stores are, in fact, the way of the future. We all have a sense of just how popular ecommerce has become, but more than just a sense, the data doesn't lie. Close to 40% of golfers bought golf-related products online in 2018, according to a study done by the National Golf Foundation (NGF), with a large portion (almost 60%) of said golfers purchasing their product at general online merchandisers such as Amazon - that Bezos, he's done it again.
Or has he?
The NGF's report also notes how almost 50% of online golf shoppers also made their purchases from specialty online golf stores, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the big bad scary Bezos isn't taking over the golfing world as first glance makes it seem.
Why specialty online golf stores matter most
Why do specialty online golf stores matter? One word instantly comes to mind: competition. Granted, stores such as Amazon, PGA Tour Superstore, and the like, are convenient and provide lots of variety for golfers to choose from, but it seems that the larger a company grows, the more generic and impersonal it becomes.
This is where specialty online golf stores come in, because there is a growing demographic in the game that isn't looking for Bear or Shark apparel. And this isn't to slam Jack Nicklaus or Greg Norman as golfers or businessmen, or even to say that no one out there is looking for their brands. This is merely to say that, since Tiger, there is a growing younger generation of golfers who simply have a different look, feel, and intent to how they want to interact with the game they love. I’m also part of this Tiger generation, and you can call us the Tigeration. (Trademark pending.)
As we all know, Tiger has grown the game more than any other golfer in the history of the sport. It's important to note that his generation of golfers has also grown up with the Internet in some capacity. But when we consider how many of the newest members of Tigeration not only have grown up with the Internet but also now come out of the womb with a cell phone and a selfie stick in their hands, it's no wonder why specialty online golf stores are already so popular and trending upward to matter most in the new world of golf ecommerce. Our generation is tech savvy, so the business of online golf stores is here to stay.
So what matters most to our Tigeration in a specialty online golf store?
Top 3 Online Specialty Golf Store Customer Wants and Needs
It comes as no surprise that us GenXers, Millennials, GenYers aka the Tigeration (am I the only one in love with the moniker?) are becoming used to, and confident in, online shopping. But it's also no wonder why consumer confidence continues to grow, because companies are focusing more and more on instilling confidence into their customers with better product options and higher quality, and top-notch shipping and return policies.
Research shows that an inconvenient return policy deters 80% of online shoppers. And we've all been there, so it makes complete sense as to why such policies would turn us golfers away from making an online purchase, because we're used to being able to buy things in person. Consumer confidence in person is always high, but buying something online naturally breeds hesitation, which is all the more reason for golfers to buy from specialty online golf stores: customer satisfaction means everything to a smaller independent specialty store. Without happy and satisfied customers, they simply will not last long online with customers now having ample options to choose from to suit their specific wants and needs.
With the explosion of golf's gear industry comes an explosion of a variety of quality golf products, for better and for worse. Although convenience for retail shoppers - whether online or in person - still matters to consumers, it's not what matters most, by quite a large margin, in fact.
Quality ranks at almost three times that of convenience, according to a study done by the National Retail Federation (NRF). So it's no wonder why so many golfers are shopping at specialty online golf stores more and more rather than merely for convenience through sites such as Amazon. Sorry, not sorry, Bezos.
If the product suits a new style for the newer generation, it must also be of higher quality or golfers will lose confidence in an online company in a hurry.
Speaking of product…
Newer golfers not only need gear, they also want it to look nice and stand out. They want product that you can't find at the big box brick-and-mortar or generic online stores. They want headcovers, for example, that look sharp and custom rather than looking like they came with the club - have you seen this year's Callaway Maverick headcover? Yikes.
Custom is a word that is often thrown around, and sometimes brushed off by manufacturers and stores, but the importance of such options should not be thrown to the wayside: us golfers love our custom golf product.
All you have to do is look at your bag next time you're on the course and compare it to your friends' bags. You'll notice right away just how personal a golf bag and full setup is to each of us. We all have our quirks. It's simply just a part of human nature to want an autonomous identity, and there truly is nothing wrong with adding our own flare to our golf game. And think of it this way, we all know the feeling of pulling out a new club from our bag, putting on a new golf shirt or hat, or taking off that hideous Maverick headcover our driver came with and sliding on a new one - there's just a certain kind of feeling we all get at knowing our gear is ours, because it becomes a reflection of who we are as golfers.
Although the game tends to stay relatively the same, the look and feel of golf is rapidly evolving every year. We’re even starting to move past the standard swoosh and into a new age of style that focuses more on trendier golf products that break the mold of “proper” golf style that has been hindering even more growth in the game than what Tiger has already accomplished. Companies across the space have done this and the recently launched Pro Shop Golf aims to help break through the “stuffy” barrier that stands in the way of appealing to the next generation of golfers who will increasingly shop online, and it’s companies like these that are, without question, the way of the future, the way of the future…